Developer Teaches RIM’s PlayBook A New Trick: How To Run iOS Apps

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For all its (largely software-based) shortcomings, RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook really isn’t that bad a tablet, even if RIM ended up losing a fair bit of money on some of them.

This past weekend, a user named BusinessCat2000 posted a video (see above) of his PlayBook running a slew of iOS apps on the CrackBerry forums. Jaws dropped, legality was questioned, advice was thrown around, but the feat eventually turned out to be real.

CrackBerry editor Kevin Michaluk followed up and did his due diligence by having Mr. BusinessCat load up a few other applications — namely SketchMobile and the iMore app — to demonstrate that things actually work the way they’re supposed to without any trickery involved. The developer passed those tests in video form, but not before offering some insight into how he was able to make it work:

The CPU isn’t emulated on Playbook (though it is on Windows). It works very similarly to how WINE works to run Windows applications on Linux. The app binary is mapped into memory and imports are resolved to point to my own implementation of the various APIs needed. iOS actually uses a few open APIs already, which Playbook supports just as well (GL ES, and OpenAL). The bulk of the work has been in implementing all of the objective C classes that are required. The ARM code of the applications run as-is – the armv6/v7 support on PB/iDevices are pretty much identical, and the code is designed to run in USR mode. No SWIs, GPIO accesses or any of that kind of shenanigans.

It’s own app ecosystem aside, the PlayBook has also gained some notoriety for its relatively newfound ability to run Android apps (so long as they’re repackaged and submitted to the BlackBerry App World that is), and with this it seems like the little tablet has learned a new wonderful new trick.

Of course, running a few iOS apps does not an iPad make, so anyone looking to trick out their PlayBook, the actual process of getting iOS apps up and running on the PlayBook still requires a fair amount of work — it took less than an hour to get the iMore app working on the PlayBook, but that’s not the sort of process that’s likely to be adopted by anyone but the most hardcore PlayBook buffs. Still, this new feature is a damned impressive one, and could become a real crowd pleaser if given enough time in the oven.